CARY — Garner’s boys won a tight duel with Knightdale that came down to the final event of the night and Clayton’s girls cruised to victory in a four-team swim meet Thursday night at the Triangle Aquatic Center.
The meet, matching Greater Neuse River 4A Conference teams from Clayton, Garner, Knightdale and East Wake, was the final regular-season meet before the conference championships, scheduled for Jan. 17.
Garner totaled 164 points in the boys competition. Knightdale was second with 149 points, Clayton third with 134 and East Wake fourth with 31.
Knightdale led in the early going, winning five of the first seven events. But Garner surged at the end – winning three of the final four boys events to take the meet.
Garner won the 200-yard freestyle relay, edging Knightdale. The Trojans’ Matt Smothers then followed with a victory in the 100 backstroke.
Knightdale’s Jordan Nichols won the next-to-last event – the 100 breaststroke – but Garner swimmers picked up second (Noel Buitrago) and third (Will Coghill) to grab a 138-135 lead in the team race.
The final boys event – the 400 free relay – was basically a two-team race between Garner and Knightdale. Swimmers from the two schools were neck-and-neck for most of the event, with the final leg matching Knightdale’s Patrick Capps against Garner’s Zack Leischner.
The two swimmers were stroke for stroke for the first three laps of the 25-yard pool, but Leischner pulled away in the final 25 yards to give the Trojans the win in 3:31.08. Knightdale was second in 3:32.90.
“That’s great,” said Garner coach Tad Berube, not certain his boys had won until the final score popped up on the scoreboard. “I’ve got a really strong core of boys. Knightdale beat us by one point the last time we met, and that was our only (regular-season) loss.
“I guess we’ll settle it for real next week (in the conference championships).”
Berube pointed out several swimmers for their strong performances: Leischner, Smothers, Coghill, Corbin Hodges, Andrew Green and Andrew Squires. Hodges, Green, Smothers and Leischner comprised the team for the final event and also teamed up to win the 200 freestyle relay. Knightdale took first place in the 200-yard medley relay.
Garner got individual boys victories from Hodges in the 100 freestyle (53 seconds) and Smothers in the 100 backstroke (59.03).
Knightdale’s individual wins came from Robert McCue in the 200 free (2:07.76), Nichols in the 200 IM (2:17.30), Logan Anderson in the 50 freestyle (23.77), Capps in the 100 butterfly (54.16) and Nichols in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.86).
“There is a great rapport between the two teams,” Knightdale coach Brittni Doyle said of the Garner-Knightdale rivalry in the pool. “The teams get along great and the athletes have great sportsmanship.”
Doyle said that she was looking forward to the conference championships because swimming and diving are combined to determine the league championships. The diving championships are held the week after the swimming competition and the Knights have an edge in diving depth, Doyle said.
All eight swim teams from the conference (the trio that battled Thursday night, along with West Johnston, Southeast Raleigh, Rolesville and Harnett Central) will be back in the TAC pool at 5 p.m. on Jan. 17 for the swimming portion of the competition. The diving championships will be Jan. 24 at N.C. State University.
Knightdale and Garner combined to win all of the boys events with the exception of the 500 freestyle, with was won by East Wake’s Ryan Worley in 5:30.16. Worley also finished third in the 100 butterfly.
In the girls competition, Clayton’s strong young quartet of sophomores Dominique Quintero, Katie Simpson and Gina Joy and freshman Cara Martin led a dominant performance by the Comets.
Clayton’s girls totaled 175 points, followed by Knightdale with 135, Garner with 128 and East Wake with 59. The Comets, the defending conference champions, have not lost a conference meet in the regular season.
While the young swimmers stand out, the depth provided by a strong group of seniors will be missed, Comets coach Marty Ringgold said.
“We losing some really good, strong seniors this year,” Ringgold said. “This is our year. I think we will do well in the regionals.”
Quintero, whose father is from Columbia and has competed with the Columbian national team this year, hopes to make the Columbian team for the 2016 Olympics. She led the way for the Comets, swimming on two winning relay teams – the 200 medley and the 400 freestyle – and winning the 100 freestyle (54.92 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (1:10.92).
“It was a good meet for me,” Quintero said. “That was close to my best time this season in the 100 free.”
Quintero finished more than 10 seconds ahead of second-place finisher McKenna Foster of Knightdale in the event. Clayton put Quintero, Simpson, Joy and Martin together for both of its relay victories. Knightdale took the other relay, the 200 freestyle.
In addition to Quintero’s two individual victories, the Comets got wins from Martin in the 200 IM (2:22.15), Joy in the 500 freestyle (5:31.99) and Simpson in the 100 backstroke (1:09.02).
Knightdale’s Kristin Olson won the 200 freestyle (2:15.73) and Garner’s Natalie Buitrago took first in the 100 butterfly (1:05.84).